The term “multi-talented artist” is bandied about maybe too liberally when it comes to vocalists and musicians, but when we say that about the incredible Diane Hoffman, we’re being quite literal – and aren’t simply referring to her immense musical gifts and charms, which she shares to perfection on her latest full length vocal master class Do I Love You.
An accomplished painter, she’s had her work exhibited throughout North America and has been involved in the artist run gallery movement in NYC’s Soho District. Prior to pursuing these passions, she designed and made her own clothes and silver jewelry. Considering the depth of her artistry, fans of great vocal jazz music should be grateful when she graces us with another stellar recording; Do I Love You, produced by drummer/percussionist Ulysses Owens, Jr., is her first in 11 years.
A voice this emotionally expressive, and alternately intimate and swingable, shouldn’t be kept on the sidelines this long. Her innate vocal gifts would make any random collection of standards sound incredible, but this generous 14-track set finds her digging deeper to open the door to aspects of her personal life. Because she’s not a songwriter herself, the key to making this a triumph was in curating tunes (a handful familiar, many blissfully not) that spoke deeply to her and allowed her in turn to share meaningful aspects of her personal life.
While she’s aces mining the brass and sass on zippy versions of Cole Porter’s “Do I Love You?”, Bob Dorough’s “Devil May Care” and “I’m Gonna Go Fishin’,” the deeper heart and soul of Do I Love You” shines through on gentle, sparsely arranged ballads like “Crazy in the Heart,” the bluesy “Small Day Tomorrow,” the Brazilian-tinged “I Like It Here” and and a dreamy, tropical swirl through Ivan Lins’ “Love Dance.”
Owens gathered up a stellar band for Hoffman to interact and groove gently with, and she allows generous space for otherworldly improvisational solos by pianist Billy Test, guitarist Jacob Kelberman, trumpeter Vitaly Golavnev and tenor saxman Daniel Dickinson. This is one of the best indie jazz vocal albums of the year.